HOLLYWOOD (RNN) - The Artist, a black-and-white film about a silent movie star, won the Oscar for best picture Sunday evening. The movie the competition with five statues at the 84th annual Academy Awards.
While the night's top win came as no surprise, the two lead acting fields provided a true source of drama.
Storied Actress Meryl Streep upset Viola Davis to win her third Academy Award on Sunday. Despite a record 17 nominations, it was the actress' first win since 1983.
And Jean Dujardin, star of The Artist, was crowned the newest king of Hollywood, as he upset George Clooney to win the Oscar for best actor.
The French actor did not leave the stage for some time after his award, cheering ecstatically.
The Descendant's Clooney, who was once viewed as the frontrunner in the race, failed to capture his second acting accolade since a best supporting actor win in 2006 for Syriana.
Michel Hazanavicius won for directing Dujardin. The Oscar winner was also nominated for best original screenplay and best editing.
Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer each won for their work as supporting actors.
Plummer, of Sound of Music fame, won his first Oscar at 82 years old for his work in Beginners, in which he plays a gay father.
"You're only two years older than me, darling," Plummer said as he received his Oscar statue. "Where have you been all my life?"
In an emotional moment, Plummer thanked his wife Elaine, who he said "deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for coming to my rescue every day of my life."
Spencer won Oscar's first acting award Sunday for her supporting turn as fearless maid Minny Jackson in The Help.
"Thank you, academy, for putting me with the hottest guy in the room," as a teary-eyed Spencer accepted her award.
The actress, who was greeted with a standing ovation, also thanked her family in Alabama.
Tom Hanks awarded the first statue at Sunday's ceremony to Hugo, whose cinematographer Robert Richardson walked away with a statue named Oscar.
The Martin Scorsese-directed film also took home the evening's second award: best art direction.
Hugo, which features the famed filmmaker's first foray into 3-D, led all films going into Sunday's awards show with 11 nominations. It also won a trio of awards for best sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects, tying The Artist for total wins with five statues.
Minutes earlier, comedian Billy Crystal opened Sunday's awards show with a video montage and a song. The two show-stopping numbers, both fresh and funny, were a departure from last year's ceremony, which featured the less-than-stellar James Franco alongside a winning Anne Hawthaway.
"So tonight just call me War Horse," Crystal said in his opening monologue, which clocked in his ninth appearance at Hollywood's biggest awards show.
Stars including, Dujardin and Clooney, arrived Sunday afternoon at the Academy Awards in regal style, hitting the red carpet to the sounds of cheering fans.
Early favorites for best dressed include Gweneth Paltrow, who won an Oscar in 1999 for her leading performance in Shakespeare in Love. The actress and wife of Coldplay front man Chris Martin stepped out in a white Tom Ford gown with raised shoulders, which was accented by a floor-length cape.
The stunning dress was a siren call to old Hollywood, directly paralleling the color scheme in best picture front-runner The Artist. It was distinct from all others dresses seen outside the former Kodak Theater.
Another Academy Award-winner, Penelope Cruz, was a standout in a floor-length gray Armani Prive gown. The Spanish actress shined in the off-the-shoulder ensemble, which featured Chopard accessories.
While both actresses are likely to wind up on best dress lists tomorrow, Cruz may pull one step ahead thanks to her classic pin-up hairstyle. Paltrow wore her hair in a simple ponytail.
On the male side, one individual made a splash, but for all the wrong reasons. Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen distracted from the glamorous tone of the red carpet in a head of state getup evidently designed to promote the comedian's forthcoming film, The Dictator.
Cohen greeted E! red carpet host Ryan Seacrest by ceremoniously dumping an urn of ashes on him. The contents, he claimed, belonged to recently deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jung Il.
For the entertainment world, the Oscars are a night that rivals the Super Bowl.
Presenters at the awards ceremony include Halle Berry, Rose Byrne, Bradley Cooper, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Melissa McCarthy, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Emma Stone and Kristen Wiig.